River counties lagging in returning census forms

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Census responses are up to 60 percent in Mississippi, slightly behind the national average, with some counties along the Mississippi River lagging most.

Warren County’s residents have responded at a 62 percent clip, while only 32 percent of residents in neighboring Issaquena County have returned the forms mailed earlier this month to all U.S. addresses.

The Issaquena rate was among the lowest rates in the nation so far, according to a release from the Census Bureau. The county is mostly farm and forestland and had an estimated 1,658 residents in 2008, down 27 percent from 2000.

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Through Monday, the national response rate was 66 percent. “We’re concerned about the relatively low response,” said spokesman Kat A. Smith of the bureau’s regional center in Dallas. “We want the people of the area to understand that for every household that fails to send back their census form by mail must be visited by a census taker starting in May — at a significant taxpayer cost.”

The mayor’s office in Mayersville has agreed to make census forms available for those who haven’t received one at home, the release said.

The 2010 survey asks a person’s name, sex, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, relationship and housing tenure. In May, census takers nationwide were to visit households to gather surveys not returned in the mail.

At the bottom of the state’s list as of Monday were Wilkinson County at 37 percent, Jefferson County at 38 percent and Claiborne County, at 40 percent. Topping the list through Monday were Itawamba and Union counties, both at 70 percent, Rankin County, at 68 percent, and four others at 67 percent. Updated totals are available at http://2010census.gov/2010census/take10map.

About 72 percent of the U.S. population mailed back census forms in 2000, a higher participation rate than in the previous 30 years. Warren County’s return rate 10 years ago was 71 percent, higher than the 66 percent statewide rate.

The bureau says if 100 percent of all households mailed back their forms, taxpayers would save about $1.5 billion.

A national count is mandated every year by the Constitution. Originally, the numbers were used to draw voting lines to create equal population numbers for local, state and federal elections. Census data still serves that purpose, but is also used for an array of grant programs.

Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com